There are too many things to love about the show Grey’s Anatomy; the sarcastic friendships, empowered women, inspiring patients, and memorable operations, to name a few. However, one character stands out to me: Cristina Yang. She’s bold and beautiful, inside and out. While there are plenty of powerful and strong women on Grey’s Anatomy, what makes Cristina special is the fine line she walks between ambitious and cutthroat. No pun intended. She’s a brilliant surgeon who wants to make a name for herself rather than develop a perfect bedside manner. Yang is a fan favorite, but one aspect of her story is considered controversial, something that actually makes me admire her more.
From the start of the show, Cristina makes it clear that she doesn’t want to live a traditional life. She is in every way a modern woman as she puts her career before all else. Cristina spends all her time being the best doctor she can be. Her fierce and passionate personality is therefore made attractive to the men in her life. While Cristina does pursue the men that interest her, she makes it clear that she’s not interested in being a housewife. When her eventual husband in the show, Owen Hunt, pushes Cristina to raise kids with him, Cristina tries to be open to the idea. When Owen continues to push her, Cristina gives the most amazing speech. She basically says that it’s her body, not his, and having kids is not a decision to be taken lightly. She wants to take her time and give the decision the respect it deserves and to think on it. Later, Cristina ends up having an abortion and Owen is outraged. To this day, fans are conflicted over Cristina and Owen’s relationship and its obvious pitfalls. For me, however, Cristina’s opinion on having kids is relatable.
Personally, I’m not interested in having kids, ever. Similar to Cristina, I have tried to explain this to people calmly and then I’ve resorted to arguing. It’s a social norm that women are supposed to want and need to have children. While fewer women are choosing to raise kids than ever before, for various reasons, people naturally assume that women will marry a man and have kids one day. Not only is this a heterosexual assumption, but it is a limited assumption that doesn’t separate a woman’s identity from motherhood. This societal norm makes it difficult to explain, or even just admit to people that a woman doesn’t plan on having a family. It’s like a secret confession, something that I never tell people when I first meet them because I don’t want to be judged. This Cristina plotline means so much to me because it’s rare to have this kind of representation on television shows.
Let me explain: usually female characters in television shows, and even books, almost always have kids stand in place for their “happy ending.” Cristina proves that this is a stereotype, not always a reality. What I appreciate about Cristina is that she tries to explain why she doesn’t want children, but she isn’t disrespectful about it. Not wanting kids doesn’t make Cristina a bad or selfish person, it’s completely normal. Cristina helped me to understand that there are women out there like me who want something different from the norm.
The important point Cristina makes that matters to me is when she says, “I don’t hate children.” Just like feminism, people get the wrong idea about women who don’t want children. Not all feminists are man-haters, despite that stereotype, just like how raising kids and not liking kids is another stereotype. Cristina proves to TV viewers that she is a wonderful aunt to Zola, her best friend’s daughter, but that doesn’t change her mind about having kids herself. She is happy to help look after other kids as long as she maintains a focus on her career. As Cristina finds a happy balance between work and relationships, her character matures and grows without losing her core beliefs. Even though Cristina never changes her mind about raising kids, being an aunt to Zola makes her understand that she can still love the kids she knows.
Even though Cristina is no longer on Grey’s Anatomy, her character will always inspire me. She’s one of the most realistic female characters we’ll ever see on TV. She shows us that women can be smart, ambitious, resilient, complicated, flawed, and powerful no matter what.